Feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which involves inflammation of the lining of the abdominal cavity, is one of the most mysterious diseases that a cat can get. It’sseen more often in younger cats, households with multiple cats, and cats that spend time outdoors. The virus that causes this disease is spread by respiratory secretions and feces.
This disease has two major manifestations. The first is called the dry form. Cats that have this FIP type have vague symptoms that come and go. Dry form can affect many different systems in the body, and the symptoms we see can mimic other common diseases. The other manifestation of this disease is called the wet form because fluid accumulates in the abdomen or the chest.
Diagnosis is very difficult in most cases, particularly in the dry form. We do not have a blood test that tells us whether the virus is present as we do with FeLV and FIV. The test we do have tells us if antibodies to the category of virus that FIP belongs to have been made, but it does not tell us if it is the actual FIP virus.
A test called PCR has been developed to aid us in the diagnosis of the dry form. Besides specific FIP tests, blood samples, X-rays and fluid analysis are also used and are necessary in cats that have the wet form. The only way to be 100 percent certain of the diagnosis is to biopsy one of the abdominal lymph nodes, the kidneys or the liver.
Over the years, many different types of treatments have been attempted to alleviate symptoms of this disease. Some of them seem to work for variable periods of time, so they are worth trying in some cases. These include antibiotics, immune-system stimulators and vitamins. Since it is difficult to confirm the presence of this disease, especially in the dry form, it’s well worth the effort to treat your cat symptomatically.
We have detailed FIP information on our website.